A few months back a shopping center property manager doing work for a client of mine called me to advise me that they received a letter from the city attorney informing them that a lawsuit was filed by the city against a marijuana collective. The collective was a tenant in one of my client’s shopping centers. The letter went on to state that unless the “property manager” evicted the tenant “immediately,” the city would add the property manager as a defendant in the suit. Obviously, this letter caused both my client and the property manager considerable distress, particularly since my client inherited this client and was not the original landlord to the lease.
In California and a number of other states, it is not contrary to state law to sell marijuana for medicinal purposes. This past sentence was very carefully worded. So there is no confusion, it is illegal, per federal law, to sell marijuana anywhere in the United States, including, if there be any doubt, the state of California.
This discrepancy and conflict between state and federal law has caused quite a bit of confusion among the purveyors of marijuana and landlords who choose to lease space to these medical marijuana dispensaries.
An interesting twist to this story and one that landlords and property managers should pay close attention to is that a few weeks after hearing from the city attorneys office, my client received another letter, this time from the US Attorney. In this letter, the US Attorney threatened to file criminal charges against the landlord and the property manager and confiscate the shopping center since they considered the center an asset that was being used in the commission of a crime in violation of federal drug laws.
Looking out for the best interests of the client, I deftly avoided action by the US Attorney by figuring out a legal way to evict the tenant per California law. Notwithstanding the city and US attorney’s demand that I remove the tenant, seemingly without process of law, I had to research the law to figure out an adequate legal basis per both California and federal law to evict the tenant. Upon deciding upon the legal basis to proceed commence an unlawful detainer action, and immediately upon the filing of the eviction suit, I contacted the city attorney and the US Attorney for their evidence of violations so that if the suit progressed to trial, I would have adequate evidence to prove my case.
Now, you have got to know where I am going with this, right? You guessed it; the US Attorney refused to provide any evidence, claiming a privilege and that there was an ongoing investigation. The city attorney could only provide meager evidence from about 1 – 1 1/2 years earlier.
My following post will fill in the blanks to this story, such as, the legal basis I used to evict the medical marijuana collective and how I planned to get my evidence.